When hostilely confronted by angsty teenagers with the loaded question: “Peeta or Gale”, I always puffed out my chest and responded boldly and with a smug grin: “Team Katniss”! Why, I would wonder, did every young adult author feel need to marry off their heroines to their high school boyfriends. While that may work for one in a million real-life couples, how many women cringe at the thought of their first boyfriends being their future husbands? What was Suzanne Collins’ reasoning for the "married-with-children" epilogue? Was Collins perhaps suggesting that women are that needy and require romance to exist? That Katniss, one of the strongest young women in literary history, who saved a nation, required a man to complete her? In a way, yes. Now before you grab your torches and pitchforks and hunt me down, hear me out.
Katniss is not in a solely romantic relationship with Peeta. While I am sure that she loves him in some way, and it’s also true that they have a family, they’ve had sex at least twice, and they’ve probably been known to kiss sometimes. However, with Katniss’s painful history, do you think for one minute that she is being tender and romantic? Of course not. That’s Peeta. Katniss’ll go along with it to keep him around for what she really needs him for: safety and sanity.
Last week I attended a round table discussion about the Hunger Games epilogue at the Harry Potter fan convention, Aeternitas 2011. Moderator Jennie Steinberg read to us the last few pages of the book where the readers are introduced to the Mellark-Everdeen clan: Katniss, Peeta, the boy and the girl.
Jennie then proceeded to draw a diagram, much like the food pyramid on the board. This pyramid was called Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, and it looked like this:
Ms. Steinberg astutely pointed out that Katniss’s needs throughout the books never went above the second section of the pyramid. Living in Panem, her physiological needs and safety were constantly in jeopardy during the entire series, leaving her absolutely no time to consider love, and self-esteem, let alone creativity or self-actualization. When she becomes “romantic” with Peeta in the arena, it is solely to secure food, water, and personal safety. Not to obtain a sense of love and belonging.
Even after the Hunger Games are finished and Coin and Snow are dead, there is still the ruin of her world to sift through and eventually rebuild. Katniss, again, needs not a romantic partner, but the safety of loyal companionship and family. Katniss cannot do this by herself. With Prim dead, and Gale and her mother gone, she has one person left to help her: Peeta. And while she does not require a romance to feel like a complete woman, she does require the intense companionship and safety that only Peeta can provide.
Coming to this realization has helped me see that I still am really on Team Katniss. And so is Peeta.